The Steelers have played the entire season without their franchise-tagged offensive spark.
They also just played their best game in what could be the last one without him.
The Steelers dominated the Panthers 52-21, in a performance that couldn’t have been better with any player added to the mix.
Ben Roethlisberger had a flawless night, mathematically and figuratively.
He was 22-of-25 for 328 yards and five touchdowns, for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He also got to watch the last 11 minutes tucked safely on the sidelines, as backup Joshua Dobbs enjoyed the longest mop-up duty ever.
Meanwhile, their defense kept pressure on Cam Newton throughout the night, sacking him five times (he had only been sacked 12 times this season) and picking him off once (with Vince Williams returning it for a touchdown). It was an eye-opener for a team which had won three straight, triggered by coming back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Eagles.
There wasn’t much to quibble over or worry about for the Steelers, other than running back James Conner being taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.
Now, they get to wait to see if Le'Veon Bell comes back by next Tuesday’s deadline. But it’s also reasonable to wonder what they’d do with him if he came back, as they’ve now won five straight and have no apparent weaknesses at the moment.